LDI Spotlight: Jane Childs

Jane Childs discusses the Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas and its involvement in LDI's 2010 Backstage Las Vegas experience:

1. How did the Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas (SILV) come into existence?

We like to say it was 40 years in the creation, five years in the planning and, now, five years in existence. Founder Don Childs began developing a concept of “intensive” technical training when he was teaching at UCSB in 1971. The concept has grown and taken form over the years with classes and workshops along the way. The actual germ for the current program began with a discussion over dinner with Luc LaFortune, when Luc suggested that he and Don should start a program in Las Vegas because of the level of technology being used in Vegas. When Luc decided he needed to take a break for a while the wheels of SILV were already in motion. Don and Graham Campbell (one of Luc’s fellow students in Montreal) made the decision to go forward. The first workshop was a three-day workshop in December 2006. The first Summer Intensive Program was in the summer of 2007.

2. What are the goals of the Institute?

SILV’s primary goal is to provide state-of-the-art training for individuals who are or want to be active entertainment technicians. We provide training that is not available at most colleges or universities because of lack of budgets, equipment, and trainers with the depth and breadth of knowledge and experience required today. Early in his career as an educator Don turned to engineers, scientists, and tradesmen to help him train young students. SILV counts on the top individuals in each area to provide the training. SILV, in association with the leaders in the entertainment field, determines the type of training required, arranges for the talent and the facilities to make it happen

3. Who generally attends and what do they “experience”?

We have had a total of 197 attendees over the previous four and a half years years. The majority of them have come for one or two specialized weeks, but 37 have attended the full summer program (10 weeks in 2007 and 8 weeks since). The ages have been from 16 to 65 with the average being 24.5. Most of the 8 “week-ers” are either in college, just graduated from college, or have been out of college a short time and found themselves without employment. They all experience 40-50 hours a week each week. It is almost totally hands-on with the latest equipment and systems. Additionally they experience one-on-one discussions with the leaders in the industry, Vegas shows appropriate to the subject of the week, backstage tours, and networking with people who can make a difference.

4. What should the Backstage Las Vegas attendees expect during Stagecraft Day at LDI?

Attendees at the Stagecraft Day at LDI should expect a mini-version of SILV’s summer program. The day will not be as intensive and hands-on will be limited, but they will all get a strong taste of what SILV does. They will meet with leaders in industry and will be shown the work that these people have done and are doing. They will have a solid idea of what is behind the scenes (and not always far behind the scenes) in Las Vegas. Stagecraft Day at LDI combined with the rest of Backstage at Vegas will provide an experience similar to the experience SILV attendees get each week during the Summer Intensive Program.

5. In your opinion, how does technology define the entertainment scene in Las Vegas… with Cirque du Soleil’s seven resident shows in town the bar has been set pretty high?

I won’t go so far as to say that technology is the entertainment scene in Vegas, but its pretty close. The Cirque shows have set the bar, but the bar has been pushed by others as well. Le Reve, Blue Man Group, night clubs like Rum Jungle, Studio 54, and others, as well as things like the Sirens at Treasure Island, and water features at Bellagio and City Center are examples of how important technology is in Vegas. Even shows like Donny and Marie, Human Nature, Cher, Bette, and of course Celine Dion (who is already selling out her show that is coming back to Vegas in a few months) rely heavily on technology. Beyond Vegas, the technology in Vegas is finding its way into Broadway shows, cruise ship shows, resident theatres, sports spectaculars, and even colleges. What’s happening in Vegas is what’s happening in entertainment technology.

Register today for Backstage Las Vegas at LDI2010 and get ready to experience visits to these companies along with the Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas:

Silver States Wire Rope: owner/brothers Andrew and Peter Rogers are riggers par excellence and Silver States is the rigging supplier for Cirque du Soleil’s resident and touring shows for acrobatic, automated and theatrical rigging. Their class will introduce the most critical aspects of rigging, fall arrest and safety.

AES (Advanced Entertainment Services) will deliver and detail demonstrations of the amazing effects they have developed in the areas of Indoor/Close Proximity Pyrotechnics and Special Effects for events and productions around the world. A highlight will include effects from in their own backyard—the Las Vegas production of Phantom.

Flying by Foy (headquarters in Las Vegas) will cap The SILV “Experience” at LDI with a class with Joe McGeough and his amazing team. They will demonstrate, share, and teach us about the evolution of their masterful techniques that has flown the likes from Peter Pan to the recently Tony nominated American Idiot. Foy’s tradition of innovation in the entertainment industry is unparalleled.

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